East China Normal University Affiliated Bilingual Kindergarten
Courtyard, in Chinese architecture, is not only a tradition of physical space but also a core of emotion and communication. It helps people to keep cohesion of the family and strengthen the contacts with friends and relatives and to connect nature and universe in a touchable way. Yet this heritage is today already an impossible dream for most of the urban citizens.
Acting is an urbanized suburban town near the boundary between northwestern Shanghai and Suzhou Huaqiao. The kindergarten located in a new residential neighborhood to the south of Anting station of Metro line 11, is an early bird in the construction plan of a public facility compound. Although a tight site to house 15-classes within 7400sqm, we still want to provide this kindergarten a courtyard environment for children to perceive nature, to recognize society and to build up themselves with a memory of courtyard life.
Courtyards need an enclosure of building units. Following the leaning western border of the site, we organized the units in a setback “W” shape to earn the maximum sunlight from west, south, and east, and we use Hexagon for the plan shape of the unit. The honeycomb composition fits better the leaning border, it provides more dynamic indoor and outdoor spaces with a sense of concentration while diluting the axis monumentality of traditional four-sided courtyard. We ended up with an irregular hexagonal unit for either classroom or courtyard. Three of the six sides were designed in equal to accommodate more flexible combination as per the needs of sunlight and functionality.
After entering the gate, students and teachers will follow the zigzag corridors along the hexagon edges, go through the vestibule and the lobby, pass by different classes, with flowers and grasses in layers of courtyards, with bifurcating and merging paths before approaching their own classroom.
The collective activity in the classroom encircles the round column in the center of the room，while a team or individuals can use the protruding window spaces along the wall to read and write or to take care of their small plants. Every two classrooms have a shared courtyard space with direct indoor-outdoor connections. Departing from their own courtyards, the kids can restart their journeys to other places including a library, musical room, fine arts room, canteen, multifunction room, small farm and other classes in other courtyards. Students at 2nd and 3rd floors can also join the big playgrounds conveniently through two covered outdoor staircases from both east and west sides.
By connecting different interior and exterior spaces in various scales on the corridor paths, we make every outing of the kids an experience of touching “nature” and “society”. We believe that all these experiences of exploration, perceiving and communication would become part of their precious childhood memories in an unconscious and healthy way.